Washboard International

The very existence of washboard International, and whoever owns the Washboard.com domain, is music to this Junkmaster's ears. I find my way to this article and discover the source of conceptual resonance that makes me so in tune with the art and joy of washboarding:

"These lucky enlistees have joined Washboards International...They do not pay dues -- 'Nah, no one's ever gonna pay me,' he (Mike Johnson, he whom we must thank for the very existence of Washboards International) says fatalistically -- and get, for their non-existent ante, a couple of bumper stickers. But bonds between washboard players run deeper than that. Or else, Johnson muses, they are more shallow. 'It's not a terribly complex instrument,' Johnson admits. 'You just get one and figure it out."

Yeah. That's the ticket. That's the junky approach to sports and art and music and anything you think you're not good enough to play. You just get the junk, and figure it out - the kind of sound you want to make, the kind of music you want to play, the kind of rhythm that makes you dance.

Junkyard Puppies

A Junkyard Puppy, at last. Ever since the advent of Junkyard Sports in my life, I have been veritably plagued with queries regarding the Junkyard Sports Junkyard Dog-equivalent. Behold. The Junkyard Puppy. One of many Junkyard Puppies, in fact, created by a group of folk artists who call themselves the Yardbirds. The disclaimer: "Every Junkyard Puppy Metal Sculpture is handmade in Kentucky by YardBirds. That means each one varies slightly from the other in its handcrafted appearance and attitude. All of the Junkyard Puppies are made with bare metal and naturally rust with age. That's their beauty!"

Junkyard Puppies. So much like people, you know - varying slightly in appearance and attitude, naturally rusting with age.

Floorball

It's a lot like hockey with a whiffle ball and without the skates. You have a hockey-like stick. You have a whiffle ball. You're trying to get the ball into a hockey-like goal, passed the hockey-like goalie, who is kneeling. You are not, however, allowed to:
- hold, check, block or trip an opponent,
- hit, block, lift, push down or kick an opponents stick,
- hit the ball with the stick or foot above knee level,
- lift the stick above waist height,
- kick the ball twice.
- touch ball with hand
- jump up to reach ball
- passing stick between players legs
- play if body parts, other than feet, come in contact with floor.
It was, according to Floorball USA, played in Sweden in the early 1970s, and now attracts 1.5 million players world-wide. It was invented as a sport that could be played by both sexes, together. I just hope it stays that way.

Edible Trivia

This is not just a box of Pringles. It's a box of Printed Pringles (or, as their manufacturers prefer to call them, "Pringle Prints"). Yes, with the new Pringle Printer Technology, you can now eat anyone else's words. And they'll crunch in your mouth, too.

But what practical application could such a comparatively trivial accomplishment have in the real world? I need only turn to the Junk Food News to discover that "P&G" (yes, as in Proctor and Gamble, "leader and founder of the stacked crisp category") is teaming up with Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE: HAS), a worldwide leader in children's and family leisure time entertainment products, to use questions and answers from Trivial Pursuit Junior. Pringles Prints will feature 2,400 fun trivia questions and answers from six different Trivial Pursuit Junior categories (Today & Tomorrow, Music, Movies, Nature, Yesterday and Whatever) randomly printed on the potato crisps. Pringles Prints Trivial Pursuit Junior will be available nationwide in August 2004. Additionally, Pringles Prints Fun Facts, Animal Facts and Jokes will become available in select U.S. retail locations in June and July 2004."

Hmm. What about Politically Printed Pringle Prints? Party-specific Printed Pringle Prints? Or Plain Polemical Printed Pringle Prints? Printed Pringle Prints Study Guides (eat your way to that A)? Printed Pringle Prints Bomb-Building Guides?

All About Balls

All About Balls is a website that is basically all about, um, balls. Balls, you say? Balls, in deed. As a random illustration, we take from the first and last listings on their page "All Balls A-Z": abacus balls, aeolipile, Akuballs, animal balls, animal pellets, antenna balls, art balls, Atomium, ball and chain, ball art, ball avalanches, ball baths, ball bombardment, ball cannon, ball chairs, ball clocks, ball games, ball garlands, ball gloves, ball icons, ball jokes, ball kites...udang sapudi, Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, unihockey balls, vomit balls, waterpolo balls, wax balls, wind balls, workout balls, yoga balls, Zip-n-Hit balls, zorb balls, Zwetschkenknödel

What, for example, you might blamelessly ask, is an "aeolipile?" Interestingly enough, it is the first working steam engine, made, obviously, "of a metal ball mounted on a sealed pot (boiler) by an axial shaft, having two curved outlet tubes to produce a rotary motion from the escaping steam."

Stumbling across the James Burke-ian collection of all things ball, was for me almost exacerbatingly fortuitous after having spent an hour with Mick Greene of Streetplay playing most therapeutic game of Fivebox in a Nashville parking lot with his puzzlingly underappreciated Spaldeen of wonderful bounce and pop.


Thanks for the find Presurfer

Bankshot - sports for everybody

tIn his article, "The Bankshot Conception of Universal Design," Dr. Reeve Brenner says some things about sports and differently-abled people that explain a lot of the passion behind the Junkyard Sports idea. It's written in support of an other "equipment-based" solution called "Bankshot."
Tennis is exclusionary and conducing to separate-but-equal at its most extreme. It is possible for wheelchair athletes to play against each other on that court. It is possible for able-bodied people to play against each other on that court. But even able-bodied people can not all play tennis on the same level. A tennis player must find the very small sliver of the population with whom to play. The wheelchair athlete cannot play with the able-bodied except artificially in organized pre-arranged circumstances – but never spontaneously.
It's the same vision of "sports for everybody" that I was describing when I wrote "Extra Special Olympics." Bankshot is a working, challenging, cross-ability solution that combines miniature golf with a series of basketball and/or tennis and maybe even pitching goals.
Bankshot basketball is a new game of skill and challenge that is often described as a "mini golf, but with a basketball." Players of all ages and abilities, even disabled participants, proceed through a course of angled, curved and non-conventionally configured brightly colored backboards, banking shots off the Bankboards(TM) and through the rims... Bankshot is non-aggressive and entirely inclusionary.

A Bankshot course consists of a varying number of stations-depending upon the size of the court-each with a uniquely shaped Bankboard. Each Bankshot requires a different banked shot to score. Some shots demand carroms off two backboards, some are ricochets and one diabolically maddening shot has three backboards and two rims. Players use a scorecard to track their score as they shoot increasingly difficult shots at each of the stations.

And it's a better world because of it.

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YELLOWARROW

Think of it as YELLOWARROW: [NOUN] A COLLECTIVE SYMBOL FOR PERSONAL COMOMUNICATION. [VERB]TO LEAVE AND DISCOVER MESSAGES POINTING OUT WHAT COUNTS.

Say it out loud a few times. YELLOWARROW. Kinda trips off the virtual.

Learn even more about YELLOWARROW on the YELLOWARROW blog. You can get your ARROWS - numbered arrow-shaped stickers. For apparently free. Email YELLOWARROW - or send even a text message - about where you put your yellow arrow, and why. Tell them about other yellow arrow stickers you find. Send in a picture. learn more.



Thanks Noise.

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Wacky Australian Sports

One of the best ways to bring a little light-heartedness to the competitve spirit is by creating contests that are too silly to take seriously. Even if you get a trophy for winning the foot-powered scooter race, it's just not the kind of thing you'd put on your resumé.

Apparently, this has reached a level of fine art in Australia. Here, from Wacky Australian Sports are some heart-lightening examples:

The Great Country Music Duck Race, Tamworth, NSW. Numbered plastic ducks float down the Peel River to a finish line during Tamworth Country Music Festival

Queenscliff Scooter Challenge, from Pt Lonsdale lighthouse to Queenscliff Post Office, Vic. Riders on foot-powered scooters race over a 12km course

Compass Cup Cow Races, at Mt Compass, SA: Dairy cows become mounts for "jockeys", assisted by "urgers" who help them stay aboard. Second Sunday in February

Millthorpe Murphy Marathon, Millthorpe NSW. Contestants carry a 50kg bag of potatoes in a 1610-metre race. Lots of other potato contests including the longest-peel.

International Kite Festival, Semaphore Beach, Adelaide. A free event showcasing big kites, small kites, art kites, sport kites, kite buggying and kite surfing.

Bylong Mouse Races,27th March 2004 - Bylong NSW. Eleven-race program ending with the Bylong Cup. BYO mouse or race one of the ones provided. Lots more entertainment. Late April.

World Championship Egg Throwing Competition, Taylors Arm, NSW. A thrower pitches eggs 40-metres over the roof of the original "Pub with No Beer", celebrated in Slim Dusty’s song, and the catcher tries to catch it without breaking it. Sunday after Mothers’ Day.

Pinnacle Guinea Pig Races, at Pinnacle, NSW. Sprints and hurdle races for guinea pigs. June long weekend and Easter

Black Rock Stakes, Pilbara WA. A Pub to Port wheelbarrow race that runs over more than 100km! Wheelbarrows may be modified, but must have headlights and red tail lights. A full weekend of fun

Cane Toad Racing, Maclean Cane Harvest Festival, Maclean, NSW. Snails will compete if toads not available. Lots of other activities and displays. Late June

Lions Camel Cup Carnival, Alice Springs, NT. Program of camel races, followed by pocamelo (polo on camels)

Darwin Beer Can Regatta, Darwin, NT. Boats built from drink cans battle it out for line honors off Mindil Beach near town

Giant Platypus Throwing, Nymboida Heritage Festival, NSW. Competitors take turns to throw a giant plastic platypus as far as they can. Lots of other activities. End of August

World Lizard Racing Championships, Eulo, Qld. Held at a specially-built racetrack. The event starts with a lizard auction and features a five-race program.

Sorbent Australian Dunny Derby, Winton, Qld. Enthroned "dunny jockeys" are pulled along in outhouses on wheels. Every second year in September. The festival includes the Crayfish Derby.

The Great Pram Battle, Yulara, NT. Each team of four runners pushes a "baby", minimum age 18. around the Yulara resort’s ring road

Rydges Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Alice Springs. Human horsepower propels bottomless boats along a dry riverbed.

Back to Bowra Festival, Bowraville, NSW. Billycart races, gumboot throwing, Mullins Mail Ride, whip-cracking, one arm wheelbarrow race, egg throwing. October long weekend.


The Art of Puzzle Design

My friend Scott Kim calls himself a "Puzzle Master." Try to solve one of his exemplary puzzles, like his Double Maze, and the legitimacy of his claim becomes self-evident.

Scott has put together a collection of articles on The Art of Puzzle Design. These articles are, for the most part, exceptionally clear, insightful and intelligent. For example, in the first article,What is a Puzzle, Scott presents a simple puzzle, and then describes what makes the puzzle fun. His concise analysis goes beyond puzzles, to almost anything we find fascinating enough to explore:
Novel. Puzzles are a form of play. And play starts by suspending the rules of everyday life, giving us permission to do things that are not practical. Folded letters certainly don’t have any practical value. They take something familiar and give it a novel twist – a good way of inviting you to be playful.

Not too easy, not too hard. Puzzles that are too easy are disappointing; puzzles that are too hard are discouraging. You know there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, so it seems that this puzzle can’t be too difficult. In fact this puzzle is hard enough that many people never get the answer. Nonetheless, the perceived lack of difficulty helps keeps you interested.

Tricky. To solve this puzzle you must change how you interpret the picture. Personally, I enjoy puzzles that involve such perceptual shifts.


Fun Remembered

PASSAGE #1:

From Don Dellillo's "Underworld"

"How we used to scavenge. We turned junk into games. Gouging cork out of bottle caps. I don't even remember what we used it for. Cork, rubber bands, tin cans, half a skate, old linoleum that we cut up and used in carpet guns.... How children adapt to available surfaces, using curbstones, stoops and manhole covers. How they take the pockmarked world and turn a delicate inversion, making something brainy and rule-bound and smooth and then spend the rest of their lives trying to repeat the process."

PASSAGE #2:

From Sarah Vowell's "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" (on finding the point in the primordial pointlessness of play... Pop-a-Shot, by the way, is an arcade game in which you try to shoot as many mini basketballs as you can in 40 seconds)

"I think Pot-a-Shot's a baby game. That's why I love it. Unlike the game of basketball itself, Pop-A-Shot has no standard socially redeeming value whatsoever. Pop-A-Shot is not about teamwork or getting along or working together. Pop-A-Shot is not about getting exercise or fresh air. It takes place in fluorescent-lit bowling alleys or darkened bars. It costs money. At the end of a game, one does not swig Gatorade. One sips bourbon or mararitas or munches cupcakes… In other words, Pop-A-Shot has no point at all. And that, for me, is the point. My life is full of points – the deadlines and bills and recycling and phone calls. I have come to appreciate, to depend on, this one dumb-ass little passion. Because every time a basketball slides off my fingertips and drops perfectly, flawlessly, into that hole, well, swish, happiness found."


from Christopher Noxon

cinemasports

"Cinemasports is the iron chef of filmmaking. Each cinemasports day starts with the announcement of 'ingredients.' Teams have 9 hours to complete a movie with those ingredients. Screening of finished movies starts on the 10th hour. For Example, can different teams make a 4 minute movie in 9Hrs that includes an onion, an English teacher, and a tattoo parlor? We explore how the same ingredients inspire different creative minds."

Though the name "cinemasports" harkens to things like Theater Sports, it is everso junkyardly in spirit and concept. Here, for example, is an example:

Include the following elements in the days movie:
1. Someone is approached by a stranger claiming to be a lost relative.
2. Someone peels an orange
3. A shot of a bare knee
4. Someone mentions hair transplants in conversation.

Which, in a junkyard sports parallel, might read:

Include the following elements in a game of soccer:
1. The Sunday Times
2. 13 assorted singleton socks
3. An alley
4. 14 players ranging in age from 3-47, one of whom is blind

It is, after all, all one game.



Thanks Noise

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Sports vs. Fun

Organized sports are supposed to be fun, no? I think it's the supposed to be part that led me to creating my much less organized alternative that I eventually called "Junkyard Sports." Because, as some very serious people, like Canada's JustPlay, so astutely note:

"...the very existence of organized youth sport is being threatened by the increase in violence, harassment and abuse by sport participant groups - spectators, coaches and players."

I found out about them in this article, that cites the following research:

Of the three participant groups — players, coaches and spectators — players are the least often cited as the source of poor conduct.

Three-quarters of critical incidents reported originate from the adults. Coaches tend to be responsible for roughly 40 per cent and spectators for 33 per cent, while just over 25 per cent are caused by the players.

About 80 per cent of the time, behavior falls within the average range. But 20 per cent of the time it falls within the realm of unacceptable, indicating problems are more widespread than just the "few bad apples" commonly cited.

So it's not the players, and it's not the sports themselves that create this profound imbalance between organized sports and fun. It's the people who aren't playing. The Junkyard Sports solution is to make everyone a player: coaches become Junkmasters; spectators costumers, trophy-makers and half-time performers. The Junkyard Sports solution is to create an alternative. The JustPlay solution is to change the current model. The accomplishments of one can only augment the accomplishment of the other. May we both succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

The Olympics, Heroism, Fun and Junk

From the perspective of someone also known as "Major Fun" the Olympics are a perfect example of how easy it is to separate fun from games. Even though they are called games, they are really contests. Even though only amateurs are allowed to play, the stakes are international in their proportion. Yes, yes, the acts of heroism on the peaks of flow are everywhere to be found. One of my favorite stories about Olympic heroism is this one, even though it actually took place before the Olympics.

Perhaps the best thing about the Olympics is how very easy it is to make up you own, just-for-fun events, out of junk and a sense of humor. I found, for example, several versions of "Office Olympics, including this, and of course, the, for example, Office Hurdles," and, in a similar vein, the ever-challenging sport of "Office Rowing." Of course, there's always the executive-like team building experience of Out of Office Olympics, and the always questionable challenges of the Indoor Olympics.

Forgive me if I seem to denigrate the inestimably international contribution of the Olympics to world peace and things of similarly grandiose ilk. For me, the inspirational part of the whole thing is how many junkly ways there are to bring it home.

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Streetplay and Junkyard Sports

Finding Streetplay remains one of my happiest Internet discoveries. Even before I started my journeys into Junkyard Sports, Streetplay served as a resource for games and inspiration. Devoted to reporting on and preserving the spirit of the kinds of street games that were at one time found in almost every large American city, the Webby-award nominated Streetplay site has grown into a major resource for anyone wishing to bring more fun to this increasingly somber world of ours.

Well, today, it gives me great, vast, and perhaps unparalleled pleasure to announce that Street Play and Junkyard Sports have formed a partnership, as evidenced by this.

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Trashbasket Baseball

Cyrkam Airtos is a simple, and significantly challenging online game - and I mean significantly. Because aside from the significance of the challenge and all that is therein implied, it also signifies the "fun anywhere with anything" premise, which is central to junkyard sports and related junkly efforts. And, perhaps of even greater significance, it is a clear, virtual illustration of a game that you and your friends can play with real trash and real trash baskets.

You need: a chair, at least one trash basket, a pitcher, and a basket repositioner. You don't really need a chair. And, if pressed, you could probably play by yourself. However, the scenario depicted by the virtual game has more strategic depth, and is probably a lot more fun (especially if you're the kind of person who has more fun playing with other people than playing by yourself). You could easily add bases and more people to the game, should you so desire. Suppose you had several trash cans, for example. And each can was a different base. And the opposing team had basket repositioners for each basebasket.

You could even play this game on wheelchairs!


Thanks In4mador!, for noticing....

Junkyard Sports can now be yours!

It is with consummate glee that I herewith do publicly announce that my book "Junkyard Sports" is now available for purchase. Now, you too can bring more fun to more people with less stuff...










Please note that orders outside the US will be billed additional shipping charges.

The Wikki List of Frivolous Political Parties

Here in the States we've been taking our politics unusually seriously of late. The two major parties are probably more divergent than they've been in decades, and the struggle is taking on unusually strident, often nasty, and significantly somber tones. Which makes The Wikki List of Frivolous Political Parties all the more relevant and needed.

There's for example, the Ezenhemmer Plastic Bags and Child Rearing Utensils Party. It is reportedly a "Swedish political party with 72 members, formed in reaction against the world-wide, dead boring, political seriousness." Which is cool. "The basic idea of Ezenhemmer," they explain, "is that everybody would feel a lot better and be more in harmony with the rest of the world if we began to be a little bit more cheerful and playful instead of engaging ourselves in disputes with our opponents." I couldn't agree more. On the other hand, the sense of humor and playfulness they describe puts both to an extreme test. I quote: "Put a plastic bag over the head of an obnoxious spoiled brat and tie it securely around the neck, and he will show signs of submission and good manners in some 15-20 minutes time". :-)" Yes. Funny all right. But, well, a little politically extreme for my American tastes.

On the other hand, I find myself in tongue-in-cheek agreement with the sadly defunct McGillicuddy Serious Party whose serious policies included:

* The "Great Leap Backwards", a return to a medieval lifestyle.
* The establishment of a monarchy supposedly based on the Scottish Jacobite line.
* The abolition of money.
* The demolition of Parliament Buildings.
* Raising the school leaving age to sixty-five.
* Full unemployment.

Thanks for this madness go to Chris Dickson of the Mindsports Olympiad.

War, Peace and Rubber Bands

Yes, I know, despite the boyhood manliness of it all, shooting each other with rubber bands is an activity that borders perhaps too painfully close to the eternal war zone. On the other hand, so to speak, the key word is "each other." It's one of those games that maintains itself as a game as long as everyone wants to continue playing it. It is just threatening enough to keep your attention. For those of us who require a virtual reminder of these edgy encounters, there's the online game of Rubber Band It - get it? BandIt?

Googling for yet other rubber banded pleasures, I was reminded of the significantly less overtly aggressive, vastly more skill-requiring (and hence even more profoundly less boyish) games of rubber band jump rope and, of course, the highly recommended and truly junkly art of rubber band ball gathering.

From there, it requires only a slight stretch to recall the endlessly entertaining sounds one can generate when one attempts to play music on a rubber band, as well as the mystifying, yet clearly loopy implications of rubber band magic.


Thanks for the inspiration Grow-a-Brain

Sports and the search for truth

This article from Philip Ella Juico says some things about kids and sports that, unfortunately, 1) very much need to be said, and 2) you hardly ever hear.

Here, he talks about kids and cheating:

Children and youth are not born with the instinct to cheat. If you take the trouble to watch children play by themselves or even a pick-up game of street basketball, you will see that the kids are very conscious of playing by the rules, as they know them.

They do not need a referee. Cheating begins to occur when adults start to meddle by imposing their personal beliefs and values. The most damaging value that adults bring into the consciousness of children is that winning is the most desirable reason for playing.


Here, about trophies:

However, let me quote the Dr. Rainer Martens, a noted sports psychologist who wrote in his book Joy and Sadness in Children’s Sports, “Research suggests that under certain conditions, the use of extrinsic rewards (money, ribbons, trophies) may undermine the intrinsic motivation of play. For most children, it is the intrinsic rewards that initially attract them to sports.”


And this, about sports and war:

...we are told that some coaches “teach” their players to “hate” their opponents in order to “put them in the proper frame of mind” and put them on “war footing.” While it may get the player all pumped up, unfortunately, such an attitude could lead to violence. And when you speak of going into war footing, one has to realize that violence is the essence of war.


OK. OK. This isn't you're usual light-hearted fun fare to which I seem to have so willingly dedicated my life and blogs. But, you know, we people of play take our games quite seriously. And we just really (and I mean really) hate to see how easily all those well-intentioned coaches and physical education instructors and parents forget why. I guess it's part of the silliness of it all.

Croquet everywhere forever!

If you find yourself in the woods, with a couple of croquet balls in your backpack, but neither mallet nor wicket, don't despair. Don't despair at all.

I found this inspirational photo on this site describing how campers can improvise equipment - which proves that you never can tell where your junkliness will come into play, as it were. Note the twig-wicket and flashlight-stake. I really like the whole idea of playing croquet in the woods - so many interesting tree- and rock-like obstacles to play around.

On the other hand, should you find yourself not in forest, and yet not on a sufficiently croquet-worthy lawn, there's Toequet which, apparently, is croquet played with soccer balls. Again, evidence of some significantly junkyard-inspired thinking on someone's part.

Yes, yes, you say, this is all well and good, but what if you already have a croquet set and a croquet-worthy lawn but just don't have the time anymore to spend your days playing? Well, thanks to the Wonder Wicket, you now have something to do with your nights.

Newspaper Sumo

Clearly, Newspaper Sumo is yet another junkyard sport destined for the Junkyard Sports® Hall of Fame. The first newspaper-using sport, I might add.

The game was devised by some educators in Japan. I took a few liberties with the description of the game - modifying it only slightly to take it out of the classroom context.
1. Place a sheet of newspaper on the floor.

2. One stands on the edge of the paper. The other stands on the other side. Their backs are facing each other.

3. The asks a question (e.g. "How old are you?", "What's this?" etc.)

4. The first to answer correctly takes one half step back.

5. Repeat from 3 until....

6. When their feet touch, they stop. The says "Go!" and without turning round they have to push the other player off the newspaper!! Just like the real game of Sumo, the first person to touch any part of the ground outside of the "ring" (or newspaper) loses!

My respect for the playability of this Newspaper Sumo increased significantly when I read the author(s) comment: "The beauty of this game is that the kids love to play it themselves in their free time!"

Recycled Percussion

Junkyard sports and junk music share the same spirit. This is once again made manifest by a group called "Recycled Percussion" - apparently one of the hottest music groups to hit the college campus.

This article gives you a good taste of what they're all about:

...The lights are thrown on and we are looking at what seems to be the plastic section of a recycling center. Worn plastic barrels and trash cans covered with graffiti and stains are duck taped together into makeshift drum sets. Clean backdrops displaying the group's icon stand in stark contrast to pots, pans, and other items seemingly rescued from a landfill.

...Employing the use of anything with a hollow inside, the group performed with things like empty propane tanks, rusted 50 gallon barrels, and any kind of plastic bucket lying around. Without having to worry too much about damaging their "drums," the group let lose, pumping adrenaline into the crowd with each drum stick they broke.

...Predominately humorous, Recycled Percussion performs impromptu and constantly interacts with the crowd. Taking requests for songs, the group then imitated them with vocal sound effects using the microphone. Although the four members made what they did seem easy, the crowd started to appreciate the difficulty early on.

Cheering a soloist on, the noisy audience quieted with awe as a drummer's arms disappeared from motion blur. The group even used a chain saw to make music, rubbing it on a 50-gallon plastic barrel. A grinder on a rusted metal barrel sent sparks flying high into the air and cascading down over the performing members.


Any further questions, like, for example, why some of the performers where motorcycle helmets? A quick look at the clips on their site answers all.

A victory for soccer

When I read this news story about a soccer game between kids from Iceland and kids from Afganistan I was thinking I would find some heartwarming truths about how sports transcend cultural boundaries. Instead, I found a story about people transcending competition itself:
The young soccer players from Kabul, Afghanistan, arrived at John Carroll University for their Sunday game with clean, bright red knee socks, and jerseys tucked neatly into black athletic shorts....Someone must've noticed how much taller and experienced the Iceland team was than the Afghan team, who just picked up the sport in recent weeks. Plus, there were only eight Afghan players, and it takes 11 to field a team...So organizers threw out the conventional rule book and mixed the players from both teams onto two squads.

"It does not make sense to play the game because we could get any score we would like to," said Jonas Sigurdsson, the head delegate from Reykjavik, Iceland. "Everyone is having fun."

ARG - and I mean ARG!

Recently, the always amazing Bryan Alexander asked me if I had heard about ARG - Alternate Reality Gaming. ARG? Yes, in deed. Here's a description from Unfiction:

Alternate Reality Gaming (also known as beasting, unfiction, or immersive fiction) is an interactive fusion of creative writing, puzzle-solving, and team-building, with a dose of role playing thrown in. It utilizes several forms of media in order to pass clues to the players, who solve puzzles in order to win pieces of the story being played out.

Clues can be passed through web pages, email, voicemail, snail mail, television advertisements, movie posters, campus billboards, newspaper classifieds...really, in any way that information can be passed.

Many times, the puzzles that must be solved cannot be solved alone. This genre of game almost requires participation in a group or community that works together to win past the more difficult hurdles.

Beasting is unique in that it wouldn't be possible without the community-building and networking power of the Internet. Besides the obvious fact that there would be no web pages or email in which to hide clues, it would be nearly impossible for the diverse audience to coordinate the sheer amount of data, speculation, and solutions among players.


According to Bryan in this article, this kind of excrutiatingly obscure puzzling evolved from "an elaborate game-cum-marketing conspiracy for the very lame movie A.I. This game positioned a rich, interlinked, and often sneaky series of texts, clues within other documents, Web sites, and even voicemail messages, which were pieced together and developed into a narrative by thousands of curious netizens around the world."

As usual, the stuff of fun is taking us not only to new levels of collaborative fantasy, but also to anticipating new actualities, where the only way we can puzzle out the meaning of things is through widespread collaboration. It could very well presage a new meaning to winning, where victory is something that can be experienced and shared by hundreds or thousands of players.